Something completely new happened at the Dean E. Smith Center on Tuesday afternoon.
Oh yes-Hubert davis led his first fall practice as head coach of the Tar Heels. We will get to that.
But the debut in question was Toby Keith screaming into the arena’s speakers as practice began. Davis instituted a rule that each player has the option of choosing pre-workout music. The selections are in order of age, oldest first.
That means Brady manek pulled the top draft pick, and that meant his teammates – some for the first time in their lives – listened to a country music playlist as they prepared to start the 2021-22 season.
“None of us had a clue what it was,” said Armando Bacot from the playlist that started with Keith’s “Should’ve Been a Cowboy”. (Coincidentally it’s the same song Eric Hoot played for Tyler Hansbrough to calm the big man down before his first match as Tar Heel.)
Beyond the actual musical selections, the mere presence of the music and the ability for players to choose it was a reminder that this was another era. Roy Williams was in the building on Tuesday and attended practice only as an observer. After the two hour session, a passerby asked him how he was doing. There will be great excitement about the Davis Diet in the days to come. It was reasonable to wonder how the last 24 hours have been for Williams.
“Last night,” he said, “was very difficult.” It was the first basketball training day that Roy Williams fell asleep without a team since 1973.
The beautiful thing about Williams’ decision to retire is that he always knew this day would be tough. For him, personally, it was a terrible and heartbreaking decision. Carolina Basketball was not her job. It was his life.
But he didn’t make the decision based on himself. He made the decision, as he has made so many since 2003, based on what was best for the University of North Carolina basketball program (there is much more discussion. Williams’ honesty about his decision to Carolina Insider podcast from last week, highly recommended listening if you haven’t heard it before).
That’s why his former players were always happy to see him on Tuesday afternoon, even though he still looks slightly out of place outside of the training ground rather than on it. But as Leaky black said, “I am happy to see him in peace.”
And happy to see him as maybe the second biggest Hubert davis fan in the building. The biggest, of course, was Hubert davis Sr., who traveled from Virginia to attend his son’s first training session as head coach of the Tar Heels.
Wearing his Jordan Series .02 sneakers – the ones the Jordan brand created to honor Dean Smith’s influence on Michael Jordan – the young Davis subjected the Tar Heels to a practice that didn’t seem much different from the others they have. had in the last several months. It’s not entirely correct to call Tuesday’s “first” practice Davis; the NCAA has become much more lenient in granting preseason training time to teams than in years past.
“Everyone’s making a big deal today,” Davis said. “We trained several times this summer. Today was only 30 or 40 minutes longer.”
Still, there’s no doubt that the atmosphere is a bit busier when it comes to the first official training day each fall.
“It’s like that energy when you get a new haircut,” said Leaky black. “You have this different confidence. It’s just a different type of energy.”
Tuesday’s session had some similarities to the practices of previous seasons. The thought of the day was Williams’ favorite, “It’s amazing how much can be accomplished when no one cares who gets the credit.” The citation was awarded on the training plan to Williams, Dean Smith and Bill guthridge. The team have always performed the No.1 and No.3 quick break drills, which have been the favorites for the past two decades, but missed layups – a point of emphasis by Davis – come with a penalty. race.
We will have a lot more tomorrow on the basketball specifics of Tuesday’s training (and other summer training). There will be more about the players that make up this squad, and the strong influence of new faces that should dramatically change the way Carolina is able to play.
Davis isn’t comfortable with the idea that every aspect of the 2021-22 season is about him. Almost six months after taking office, he remains completely incapable of acting on a large scale. He’s the last person in the room you would identify as an NBA player in a decade, a former member of national television, or the head coach of the country’s preeminent college basketball program. In fact, his main enthusiasm after training was his ability to attend his youngest son’s soccer game in high school.
There will be wins and losses over the next six months. Its decisions will be praised and questioned in turn, sometimes the same evening. Davis is not going to change; this attitude and these priorities will not change. He remains the same soul who constantly checked the stands before every game he played.
“Every time I ran in a tunnel, before I got married, I found out where my father was,” he said Tuesday evening. “When I got married I found out where my dad was and where Leslie was. I had a sense of security knowing that someone in the gym was on my side no matter what happened in that. Coming to train today and having my daddy and Coach Williams there gives me the same sense of security. No matter what happened in training, I knew I had someone. one by my side. And that’s a great feeling to have. “